I welcomed the publication, on the February 15, of the independent Mental Health Taskforce report. It is an important piece of work by dedicated campaigners and well-respected practitioners. This report must be carefully considered and acted upon by the Government. It is deeply disappointing that the government chose to publish the report when Parliament was in recess. I am pleased that I was able to secure an Urgent Question in Parliament that forced the Tory government to come to the Commons and hold a brief debate on the report. You can read this here or watch it here.
The report’s recommendations if implemented in full could make a significant difference to a system which isn’t working. Under this Government mental health services have had to contend with real term funding cuts, a wholesale reorganisation and staffing shortages, all at a time of growing demand.
Too many people are not getting the care they need. For example, more patients are having to travel hundreds of miles just to get a bed and more children are turning to A&E for help.
The Taskforce said that we need to be spending an additional £1billion a year by 2020 to meet these challenges. Whilst the government has accepted this recommendation, they admitted that this money will come from the funding they have already allocated to the NHS just to maintain current levels of service provision up to 2020. Ministers must be transparent about the funding and set out how it will reach the services it is intended for. This will be of vital importance if the Government are to be held to account on the delivery of this strategy.
The Taskforce was right to emphasise the importance of prevention and the responsibility of all government departments, from education to criminal justice, in treating and preventing mental health problems from developing in the first place. If we are to tackle the mental health challenge facing our society, then the Government must prove that it is willing to work across departments to co-ordinate this work.
Mental health is one of the greatest challenges our nation faces and I agree there needs to be a concerted focus in our local area and across the country on improving treatment, support and awareness of mental health.
I, and my Opposition colleagues will continue to hold the Government to account on the implementation of this report and mental health more generally.
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